Memories absorbed: Saying goodbye to my grandparents' house

My visit to Bryson City was almost over. Early the last morning I drove up Deep Creek, site of my coldest (temperature-wise, not memory-wise) childhood times. I said goodbye to the creek, recorded some birds trilling high in the trees, and walked the new wooden path along its curve. Located on the edge of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, Deep Creek sports a campground, picnic tables and grills,  trails leading up the considerable rise two miles to the old family homeplace, and as much serenity as you can take in. Just outside the park, there are giant inner tubes to rent for $3 a day, beckoning me to come back in and play, but not quite yet on a chilled late March day. The creek winds through the landscape back to town, peeking at me and making me sad to leave.

I remember that my aunt Anna Lou, who had advanced radar for children who needed whatever they needed, whether it be a new challenge or a sandwich, would pile us all into her Dodge, whip through the curvy roads scaring little citified me to death that we were about to careen into a ravine, to spend a few hours swimming and splashing around in the coldest water on earth.

While my cousins dove right in and got on with the business of playing, I tiptoed in an inch at a time, aware I was prolonging the pain but unable to face anything more drastic. What I learned: I can adapt. My body adapts to the frigid temps of a mountain stream and pretty soon, it is not even cold. And I can adapt to a whole different life here in the mountains with my family living out of the garden with a little help from the A&P, going to church three times a week, and telling stories day and night.

That last morning, my trusty daughter Katy by my side, I left Deep Creek and sped back to town, hoping to find my way via one of the three routes mapped out in my head. We reached the river, the one my grandparent’s old house sits next to, and turned right. Katy yelped, “That’s the house, look.” She pointed across the river. There it sat in its new green-painted glory. It looked like it was alive, just as much as the grape vines and the lilac bush and the walnut tree, still there, stubborn as mint. All those years, all those times I’d visited, who knew you could just drive to Deep Creek and see the house as you’d never seen it before?

I turned around in the Baptist church parking lot, well, our family’s Baptist church – it seemed there were many others nearby – and circled back to the spot, going as slowly as I could get away with. In a pool of sunlight, there it rests, so much more relaxed now that it doesn’t have to support a family of nine with its gardens and chicken house and pig pen, and the cannery just outside the back door where my grandmother stored the food she put up for the winter. The house now seems satisfied to rest in its new beauty and tranquility, and watch the river go by. What a long and worthwhile life it has had, and how many people it has kept warm and dry, and safe. Lucky me that I was one of them.

Subscribe to join in on my next adventures.

Type your email address in the box and click the “create subscription” button. My list is completely spam free, and you can opt out at any time.

Leave a comment